MVP For 14 Years!

Got awarded for Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) – Data Platform again. This will make my 14th consecutive year to be recognized by Microsoft for my expertise and contributions to the community! Apparently, it became difficult (or not cost effective) to count years, so the ring is for 2017-2018 but the tower doesn’t lie.

Gartner’s 2017 BI and Data Analytics Magic Quadrant Shows Microsoft Leading

Power BI is enjoying a tremendous momentum and unprecedented popularity. Just within this month, your humble correspondent has been teaching Power BI four times in a row. It looks like industry observers are taking notice of this momentum. As Kamal Hathi (General Manager, Microsoft BI) announced, the newly released Garner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Data Analytics gave Microsoft a very high score. The image below shows the Microsoft’s lift between last year and this year in the Gartner magic quadrant.

I’m not surprised about the Qlik drop given they sold out the company. What’s still surprising to me is that Gartner ranked Tableau and Microsoft almost the same on the ability to execute. Although the report is not out yet, judging by the stub, Gartner used the same 14 criteria as last year, but added one more which is unknown at this point (probably real-time where Microsoft can score very high as well). Here are my comments on where Microsoft stands on these 14 criteria. You might also find my two-part blog about Tableau vs. Microsoft useful if you are tasked to compare vendors.

Capability

Teo’s Rank for MS BI

Comments
Infrastructure BI Platform Administration
Capabilities that enable scaling the platform, optimizing performance and ensuring high availability and disaster recovery

High

On premises or cloud, I think the MS BI Platform is second to none
Cloud BI
Platform-as-a-service and analytic-application-as-a-service capabilities for building, deploying and managing analytics and analytic applications in the cloud, based on data both in the cloud and on-premises

High

Power BI supports both pure cloud and hybrid architectures
Security and User Administration
Capabilities that enable platform security, administering users, and auditing platform access and utilization

Medium

More work is required to support external users in Power BI, Power BI Embedded, and SSRS
Data Source Connectivity
Capabilities that allow users to connect to the structured and unstructured data contained within various types of storage platforms, both on-premises and in the cloud.

High

As of this time, Power BI supports close to 70 connectors to let you connect to cloud and on-premises data sources. No scripting required.
Data Management Governance and Metadata Management
Tools for enabling users to share the same systems-of-record semantic model and metadata. These should provide a robust and centralized way for administrators to search, capture, store, reuse and publish metadata objects, such as dimensions, hierarchies, measures, performance metrics/key performance indicators (KPIs) and report layout objects, parameters and so on. Administrators should have the ability to promote a business-user-defined data model to a system-of-record metadata object.

Medium

Power BI has done a good job to provide auditing and admin oversight but more work is required for proactive monitoring and improving its data governance capabilities
Self-Contained Extraction, Transformation and Loading (ETL) and Data Storage
Platform capabilities for accessing, integrating, transforming and loading data into a self-contained storage layer, with the ability to index data and manage data loads and refresh scheduling.

Medium

SSIS is the most popular on-premises ETL tool. More work is required to bring similar capabilities in the cloud (I think Azure Data Factory is a step backwards)
Self-Service Data Preparation
The drag-and-drop, user-driven data combination of different sources, and the creation of analytic models such as user-defined measures, sets, groups and hierarchies. Advanced capabilities include semantic autodiscovery, intelligent joins, intelligent profiling, hierarchy generation, data lineage and data blending on varied data sources, including multistructured data

High

Power BI Desktop and Excel has a fantastic query editor (originated from Power Query) that scores big with business users. Tableau doesn’t have such native capabilities. Power BI and Excel have best of class self-modeling capabilities (much better than Tableau). Azure Query Catalog can be used for dataset autodiscovery.
Analysis and Content Creation Embedded Advanced Analytics
Enables users to easily access advanced analytics capabilities that are self-contained within the platform itself or available through the import and integration of externally developed models.

High

Not sure what is meant here by “advanced analytics capabilities”. Power BI supports integration with R, Azure Machine Learning, clustering, forecasting, binning, but I might be missing something.
Analytic Dashboards
The ability to create highly interactive dashboards and content, with visual exploration and embedded advanced and geospatial analytics, to be consumed by others

High

“Highly interactive dashboards and content” is what Power BI is all about.
Interactive Visual Exploration
Enables the exploration of data via the manipulation of chart images, with the color, brightness, size, shape and motion of visual objects representing aspects of the dataset being analyzed. This includes an array of visualization options that go beyond those of pie, bar and line charts, to include heat and tree maps, geographic maps, scatter plots and other special-purpose visuals. These tools enable users to analyze the data by interacting directly with a visual representation of it

High

According to Gartner’s definition, Power BI should score high but more work is required on the visualization side of things, such as ability to drill through a chart point as we can do in SSRS.
Mobile Exploration and Authoring
Enables organizations to develop and deliver content to mobile devices in a publishing and/or interactive mode, and takes advantage of mobile devices’ native capabilities, such as touchscreen, camera, location awareness and natural-language query

High

Native apps for iOS, Android and Windows to surface both Power BI and SSRS reports.
Sharing of Findings Embedding Analytic Content
Capabilities including a software developer’s kit with APIs and support for open standards for creating and modifying analytic content, visualizations and applications, embedding them into a business process, and/or an application or portal. These capabilities can reside outside the application (reusing the analytic infrastructure), but must be easily and seamlessly accessible from inside the application without forcing users to switch between systems. The capabilities for integrating BI and analytics with the application architecture will enable users to choose where in the business process the analytics should be embedded.

High

An Azure cloud service, Power BI Embedded allows you to do this with an appealing cost-effective licensing model.
Publishing Analytic Content
Capabilities that allow users to publish, deploy and operationalize analytic content through various output types and distribution methods, with support for content search, storytelling, scheduling and alerts.

Medium

Power BI supports subscriptions and data alerts but we can do better, such as to allow an admin to subscribe other users. “Storytelling” can mean different things but I thought the integration with Narrative Science can fall into this category.
Collaboration and Social BI
Enables users to share and discuss information, analysis, analytic content and decisions via discussion threads, chat and annotations

High

Power BI supports this with workspaces and Office 365 unified groups.

Of course, there are many competing definitions of what constitutes a BI and Analytics platform. Again, it looks to me that Gartner has predominantly focused on the self-service BI aspect of it (even there Microsoft should have scored higher) and ignored the SQL Server BI features and all the cloud BI-related products (Azure SQL Database, SQL Data Warehouse, Azure ML, Query Catalog, HDInsight, StreamInsight). If we take them in consideration, where will that dot be?

Customer Success Case – ZynBit

One of our customers, ZynBit, made the Power BI blog today! Initially, ZynBit was considering Tableau but abandoned it in favor of Power BI because of the Power BI superior data modeling capabilities and the cost effective licensing model of Power BI Embedded. Prologika helped ZynBit to transition their solution to Power BI, including designing the data model and integrating reports with Power BI Embedded. Read our case study here.

Make BI Great Again!

…with the second edition of my “Applied Microsoft Power BI” book. After seven books and starting from scratch every time, I finally got to write a revision! Thoroughly revised to reflect the current state of Power BI, it added more than 20% new content and probably that much content was rewritten to keep up with the ever changing world of Power BI. Because I had to draw a line somewhere, Applied Microsoft Power BI (2nd Edition) covers all features that were that were released by early January 2017 (including subscriptions). As with my previous books, I’m committed to help my readers with book-related questions and welcome all feedback on the book discussion forum on the book page. While you are there, feel free to check out the book resources (sample chapter, front matter, and more). Consider also following my blog at http://prologika.com/blog and subscribing to my newsletter at http://prologika.com to stay on the Power BI latest.

  • Buy the paper copy from Amazon
  • Buy the Kindle ebook from Amazon
  • Other popular channels in 2-3 weeks

MVP for 13 Years!

Microsoft awarded me again with the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award for Data Platform. This is a prestigious annual award given to selected individuals in recognition for their expertise and contribution to the community. There are 387 Data Platform MVPs worldwide and 92 of them are in the United States. his makes it 13 consecutive years for me as Data Platform MVP!

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Applied MDS and DQS Training Class Available

In my opinion, every mid-size to large organization should have a solution for master data management. Based on my observations, data quality issues have reached a pandemic level. Ironically, putting a “lipstick on the pig” with some cool visualizations appears to have a higher priority on the BI roadmap but it’s just masking the underlying issues. The focus should be on centralizing data management and improving data quality. I know this is easier said than done and the problem is further complicated by the proliferation of systems and corporate acquisitions. I know an organization which spent $8M (kid you not) on a MDM project with one of the most prominent management consulting companies and all they got back after two years was slides and documentation. It shouldn’t be this way of course. But start somewhere…. Start small, perhaps with putting under control all of these Excel spreadsheets that are floating around in your company (aka referenced data).

And you don’t have to break the bank for software. Luckily, SQL Server has a great toolset for master data management and data quality. Speaking of which, I’m happy to announce my latest training class: Applied Master Data Services and Data Quality. This two-day class is designed to help you become proficient with SQL Server 2016 Master Data Services (MDS) and Data Quality Services (DQS). IT and business users will learn how to design MDS models and extend them with business rules, attribute groups, and hierarchies. IT will learn how to integrate MDS with upstream and downstream systems and how to enforce secured access. Business users will learn how to use Excel to manage data with the tool they love most – Excel! Then, the class teaches how to create DQS knowledge bases, perform matching and cleansing tasks, and integrate DQS with MDS and SSIS. The class can be customized to target separately pro and business user audiences.

Prologika Power BI Showcase – Supply Chain

I’m excited to announce the second Prologika Power BI Showcase – Supply Chain that was added to the Power BI Partner portal! It’s based on the work we did for the world’s largest package delivery company and a provider of supply chain management solutions. Prologika designed a Power BI-based solution for a Fortune 50 organization to consolidate data sources and customer service reports and make them available on mobile devices.

Problem

This large organization wanted to strengthen its value and growth by redesigning current processes, improving business flexibility, time-to-market, innovation, and customer experience. Customer Service managers had to print or bring people into their office to review operational statistics with their representatives and team. This was taking additional management time to create the reports and then time to pull the representatives off the floor. Management needed a mobile solution for reviewing customer representative and team operational statistics. At the same time, security and service requirements dictated that the company’s data must remain on premises.

Solution

Prologika implemented a Power BI hybrid solution. The data was loaded in Analysis Services semantic models. The solution used the Power BI Enterprise Gateway to provide connectivity to the on-premises data. Managers use the Power BI mobile apps to view insightful Power BI reports and dashboards on tablets and smart phones.

Value to Customer

Power BI allows Customer Service managers to view key performance statistics on any device and from any place that has Internet connectivity. The hybrid solution didn’t require any changes to the current infrastructure, such as opening ports or granting proxy exceptions. Moreover, it brought the agility of the cloud and started a path of transformation for data analytics. Other organizational units are currently adopting the Power BI hybrid architecture developed by Prologika.

Visit the solution page to learn more about how we did it, watch a short video, and even try the interactive reports! Have questions? Contact me to today to find how Power BI can change your business!

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Prologika Power BI Showcase

Microsoft launched a Power BI Partner Showcase section to help you “find the right solution for your organization” from certified partners like Prologika. I’m excited to announce the first Prologika Power BI Showcase! It’s based on the work we did for an insurance company. This solution transformed the organization’s data into a key strategic business asset, empowering employees like never before. It currently includes over 300 performance measures that can be analyzed across various dimensions, enabling business to collaborate and share insights with rich data storytelling. The solution delivers a “single version of truth” approach for reporting, and empowers business users to build customized reports and analyses using various tools.

“We are extremely excited for the actionable intelligence and foresight this new tool will bring to our organization”
Director Supply Chain Analytics

Visit the solution page to learn more about how we did it, watch a short video, and even try the interactive reports! Have questions? Contact me to today to find how Power BI can change your business!

The Best Self-Service BI Tools of 2015

I came across this interesting PC Magazine article that just came up to compare 10 popular self-service BI tools. And the winner is? Power BI, of course, rubbing shoulders with Tableau for the Editor Choice award! The author, David Strom, did a great job reviewing the tools (this is not a trivial undertaking) but a few Power BI conclusions deserve clarifications:

  • Cons: “Cloud version has a subset of features found in Windows version” – The cloud version is meant to be simple on purpose so that business users can start analyzing data without any modeling.
  • Sharing: “Microsoft relies on the shared Microsoft OneDrive at Microsoft cloud service (or what it calls a “content pack”) to personalize and share your dashboard and reports via unique URLs” Power BI doesn’t rely on OneDrive for collaboration. Instead it supports three ways to share content: simple dashboard sharing, workspaces, and content packs.
  • Custom visuals: “You can get quickly up to speed by searching through an online visualizations gallery to find the particular presentation template you want to use to show your data. This is the reverse of what many BI tools such as Tableau Desktop ($999.00) at Tableau Software and Domo ($2,000.00) at Domo have you do, and it takes a bit of getting used to.” Not sure what this refers to. There are built-in visualizations and starting up with them is no different than using other tools. But we have also custom visuals that no other vendor has.
  • Custom visuals:” A new section called “Developer Tools” lets you build custom visualizations using a Visual Basic-like scripting language that is documented in a GitHub project. While it is still in beta, it could be a very powerful way to add your own custom look to your dashboards” The Dev Tools for implementing custom visuals outside Visual Studio is in preview but the actual visualization framework is not. And developers use TypeScript (superset of JavaScript) and not Visual Basic.

Speaking about reviews, here are some important Power BI characteristics that make it stand above the rest of the pack:

  1. Data engine and DAX – no other tool can come close to the Power BI in-memory engine that allows data analysts to build data models that are on a par with professional models.
  2. Hybrid architecture that allows to connect your visualizations to on premise data sources.
  3. Self-service ETL with Power Query – as far as I know, no other tool has such capabilities.
  4. Open architecture that allows developers to extend the Power BI capabilities
  5. Great value proposition that follows the freemium model – Power BI Desktop is free, Power BI Mobile is free, Power BI service is mostly free.

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The One and Only Power BI Book

To me, Power BI is the most exciting milestone in the Microsoft BI journey since circa 2005, when Microsoft got serious about BI. Power BI changes the way you gain insights from data; it brings you a cloud-hosted, business intelligence and analytics platform that democratizes and opens BI to everyone.

I’m happy to announce my latest (7th) book – Applied Microsoft Power BI. Currently, the one and only book on Power BI. Some people discouraged me to write this one. After all, trying to cover a product that changes every week is like trying to hit a moving target. However, I believe that the product’s fundamentals won’t change and once you grasp them, you can easily add on knowledge as Power BI evolves over time. Because I had to draw a line somewhere, “Applied Microsoft Power BI” covers all features that were announced at the PASS Summit 2015 and that were released by December 2015.

The book has four parts for each of the four user types: information worker, data analyst, pro, and developer. Information workers will learn how to connect to popular cloud services to derive instant insights, create interactive reports and dashboards, and view them in the browser and on the go. Data analysts will discover how to integrate and transform data from virtually everywhere, and then implement sophisticated self-service models. The book teaches BI and IT pros how to establish a trustworthy environment that promotes collaboration and how to implement Power BI-centric solutions for descriptive, real-time, and predictive analytics. Developers will find how to integrate custom applications with Power BI, embed reports, and implement custom visuals to present effectively any data.

The book is making its way slowly through the retail channels but it should be available on Amazon (in both paper and Kindle formats) and with other retailers before the holidays. I’ll drop a note and update the book page once the book is available for purchase. Meanwhile, visit the book page for more information about the book, source code, and a sample chapter (Chapter 1 “Introduction to Power BI”).

I predict that 2016 will be the year of Power BI and I hope that this book will help you bring your data to life!